MSN Messenger was a hard-working internet visionary which taught a generation to touch-type and lol, writes BBC technology reporter Dave Lee.
It touched the lives of millions of teenagers who, in an age before real social networking, were just getting accustomed to what it was like to live on the internet.
MSN Messenger heralded a new era: a time when chatting up a classmate no longer meant the terrifying prospect of actually having to say something to them.
It meant no longer would young teens have to endure the torture of ringing the landline number of their newest crush – knowing there was a high probability that dad would pick up.
But after all the “ASL?”s and “u there?”s, Messenger’s loyal subjects became less dependent. “I’ll brb”, people said… but they never did.
Other sites, smarter and better looking, would see Messenger cast aside. In an age of exciting digital discovery, Messenger became the web’s wooden toy.
After a long career, it spent its final year enjoying a comfortable retirement in China. Its less well-regarded relative, Windows Messenger, still battles on on work computers the world over.
“It’s like MSN,” office workers say, “…just not as fun.”
MSN Messenger is survived by Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Snapchat, Skype, Google+ and Instagram.
Does Seattle know how to grow?
You’d think so, with all those construction cranes back and so many mega-projects underway. We’re about to get expanded light rail, a new waterfront, a massive downtown tunnel, a super-sized 520 bridge, and a Mercer Mess that has been tidied up after 50 years of complaining. Growth would seem to be the least of our problems.
But there are some who think these endeavors are not enough. We could do more, do it bigger, do it better and, they believe, we had better get to it because we’re facing big economic challenges. Boeing, for example, has become a constant worry. The company is doing a slow retreat from Puget Sound, and keeping key parts of Boeing’s work here is getting increasingly expensive for taxpayers. Some $9 billion in new tax breaks have been offered to keep 777X work here. Even so, without a major transportation package and with major union concessions just voted down, Boeing is looking for a better deal elsewhere.
Another foundation of our economy is showing signs of change, and age. Microsoft has reached maturity and experienced enough marketplace failures (Vista, Zune, Surface) that a major management shift is underway. We’ve grown accustomed to Redmond being a perennial powerhouse and millionaire-generator in the Gates-Ballmer era, but will that roll continue?
Seattle sees itself as a special incubator of the next big commercial success — and the new Bezos family-funded “Center for Innovation” at the Museum of History and Industry that opened this fall is a shrine to this self-image. We’ve scored with Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco and Amazon, for example. But in the tech sector there’s some thought that we haven’t reached our silicon potential, that we’re over-due for a new major success a la Google or Facebook.
Sure, we’re a pretty good place for start-ups, but Seattle tech booster Chris DeVore recently wrotethat while Seattle is pretty good at launching companies, “It’s been a long time since a new Seattle-based company produced a huge windfall.” He means a company, like Microsoft or Amazon, that lifted employees and investors by generating lots of wealth. “If I had to put my finger on the one thing we could do to improve our weak ‘startup rate,’ it would be to produce more explosive wins in Seattle…” he wrote. That would benefit start-ups and companies all up and down the food chain and generate money to invest in new ventures. Apparently, the tech sector needs a new blockbuster.
Another voice encouraging Seattle and Washington to take it to the next level is Microsoft executive vice president and general counsel Brad Smith. In October, he addressed the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s annual Leadership Conference, an appropriate place for business leaders to inspire the team with a growth-oriented Gipper speech. I also had a chance to talk with him afterwards. In his speech, he said “[I]f there is a moment in time when we can come together and focus on raising our ambition, I think that moment is now.” With the state recovering economically, with greater global competition ahead (China, Brazil, South Carolina…), and with so much potential here, we need to get going, and set our sights higher.
To that end, his Gipper — or maybe "Skipper" — speech cited a nautical example. It was inspirational achievement of the University of Washington rowing crew who beat the odds to win a gold medal in 1936. These were local boys who had to raise their own money during the Depression to go to Germany, who had to race under rules that favored Hitler’s rowing team, and who took on the task of making America proud at the Nazi’s infamous Olympic Games. “It’s a reminder of what nine young men from humble background could achieve when they reached beyond themselves and worked as a team,” he said.
Almost one year ago today, we laid out the nightmare scenario for Microsoft (MSFT) that could lead to its business collapsing. After laying it all out, we concluded, “Fortunately for Microsoft, none of this is going to happen.”
We were wrong.
A lot changed in the last year. Microsoft’s nightmare scenario is actually starting to take hold. We’re revisiting our slideshow from last year to see how things have played out.
Each number that follows has one piece of the nightmare scenario for Microsoft and an explanation of where Microsoft stands in comparison to that hypothetical situation.
While it’s going to take a while, Microsoft isn’t the business it used to be. (as I write this from my MacBook Pro)
Since launching Windows Phone 7, it’s marketshare has dropped 38% which means that by the time that Nokia introduces Windows Phone 7 devices, the OS may be about as popular as the Symbian OS it dropped in support of Windows 7.
The question is for how much longer handset makers and carriers will consider it worth supporting Windows Phone 7. Microsoft’s mobile market share has been declining at a compound rate of about 5% per month for the past six months. At that pace, its overall share may be be hovering around just 4% by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, rival Google is on track to dominate smartphones. Android devices held 40% of the market as of the end of June, according to Comscore. Apple’s share came in at 26.6%, while RIM’s share, also in decline, fell to 23.4%.
i don’t know of a single user of Windows Phone 7 now that I think about it. No one I know even talks about it.
It’s less than Windows 7. The UI is simpler. The media players are out. Its job is just to let your data have a place to live that you own, that you pay for, that you fully control. I would actually cut a direct deal with Amazon and create the ultimate cloud server that a user can manage themselves, that you pay for by the month. Need more services? Pay a little more. Need even more? Pay even more.
Now this would have to be promoted very crisply. With lots of influential individual developers non-disclosed and on-board long before it’s announced. But because the basic softrware already exists, on Rackspace and EC2, you can start the bootstrap right away.
You also produce a simple, beautiful client that runs on netbook hardware, and runs on every other platform you can get software on. Go ahead and develop iPhone and iPad apps. Let Apple reject them, and when they do, make it public issue. Hell, make it a public policy issue. (BTW, I would partner with Facebook on this. Let Joe Hewitt run the project. Don’t know who he is? Find out.)
As the New York Times puts it, we have seen the enemy and it is Powerpoint.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.
“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.
The slide has since bounced around the Internet as an example of a military tool that has spun out of control. Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.
New computer means that I get to go through the process of installing new applications as well as some old favorites. In case you are wondering, here is my list of essential Windows software downloads.
Office and Productivity
- Open Office (free) with some excellent extensions that are now available.
- AbiWord (free) When I write I like a word processor that gets and stays out of my way.
- Gimpshop (free) Based on Gimp but it has a Photoshop style interface. It’s not quite Photoshop but it’s not $600 either.
- Paint.net (free) another wonderful and free photo organizer
- Picasa (free) Google’s photo organizer. The nice thing is that allows me to easily backup all of my photos.
- Microsoft Photo Story (free)
- Windows Movie Maker and some add ons (free)
- Windows Live Writer for blogging (free)
- FreeMind (free) I have started using mind mapping software a while ago and it has helped me organize some things in my mind and also for others.
- Google Sketchup (free) It’s another software program that isn’t a necessity but I enjoy playing with when I need to create some plans for around the house and or at the cabin.
- Mozilla Firefox (free)
- Google Chrome (free) I made the switch from Firefox to Google Chrome last year and I don’t regret it at all. It’s that good.
- Apple Safari (free) It isn’t that bad but it isn’t that great.
- Google Talk (free) Username: email@example.com
- Windows Live Messenger (free) Username: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Skype w/ PowerGramo for recording podcasts (free) Username: jordoncooper
- Google Earth (free) Mark and I have spent hours playing with it. Now we can explore the galaxy.
- KompoZer (free) In March 2007, KompoZer was featured on Download.com’s round up on the best free alternatives to Adobe CS3, where it was favorably compared to Adobe Dreamweaver.
- CC Cleaner (free) I just started to use this but I like it better than EZ Cleaner.
- EZ Cleaner (free)
- PDF Creator (free) Since I use Open Office which does a good job of publishing to PDF, I don’t use this a lot but every once in a while I need a PDF from a different program and this does a great job.
- Fox It Reader (free) So much faster than Adobe Acrobat that it is ridiculous and should make Adobe ashamed of themselves.
- AVG Free (free) It does daily updates, is free, and stays out of the way a lot better than other anti virus programs out there.
- Defraggler (free) I started to use this as I find it faster and more thorough then Windows Defrag.
- Recuva (free) Wendy and Mark tend to delete things and then empty the Recycle Bin or things like that. This counters their best efforts.
- Audacity (free) Basic audio editing
- Dropbox (free) I love Dropbox. I have it installed at home, work, and on both laptops. Instead of always looking for a thumb drive, I transfer up to 2 gigs at a time with Dropbox. If you aren’t using it, you have no idea how useful this service really is.
- Winamp (free)
- Last.fm (free)
- iTunes (free)
- Sony PSP Media Manager (free… kind of if you download it from the Sony Japanese site)
Ever since the Apple iSight came out, I have been clamoring for a webcam that would rival the Apple iSight. I assumed it would come from Logitech but it actually came from Microsoft. It’s only several years late but it’s finally here and it has HD. It’s about time.
While I am linking to Jordon Cooper Outfitters, make sure you check out the Inka Pen which is the ultimate “take with you pen” and the also take some time to see if the new Kodak Playsport HD camera should be accompanying you this summer.
I don’t travel very much anymore but the routine of leaving home, boarding planes, bad coffee, bad sleep, and doing it all over again had me thinking about the best tools for the road warriors on your Christmas shopping list. If this list doesn’t do anything for you, feel free to check out my other Christmas gift guides.
Burton Sleeper Hoodie :: No more crying babies, stiff neck, lost tickets, swampy arm pits or annoying fluorescent lights in your face. Inflate the integrated neck pillow in the hood, pull down the hood¿s light shield, crank up your new age mix or pop in your ear plugs, then pop some sleeping pills. Next stop nirvana. Travel as you know it will never be the same.
Vuzix iWear Glasses for iPod :: The AV920 from Vuzix features the best mobile experience yet: a wearable virtual 62″ big screen compatible with almost any audio / video device. Ditch your small screen and watch your movies with portable DVD players or personal media players in beautiful, crystal clear high-resolution 2D and 3D. The AV920 offers the ultimate big screen experience on the go.The AV920 delivers a virtual display equivalent to a 62-inch screen viewed from 9 feet which is pretty crazy when you think about it.
JanSport Antics Series Driver 8 Wheeled Backpack :: If you are like me, you have your laptop, PSP, iPod, a book, magazine, and a drink or two with you when you go on the plane. While none of them weigh that much together, they do add up. Your loved one could carry all of that with them but believe me, a wheeled backpack is a wonderful thing to have as you stand in line at the counter, stand in line at security, stand in line at Starbucks, and stand in line while waiting to board. Travelling can be enough of a mental and physical workout without having to heave your luggage around or have to worry about your laptop.
Pelican Micro Case :: Are you going to trust the airline to keep your loved ones iPod, cell phone, or Blackberry safe? I wouldn’t either. Toss them in one of these Pelican Micro Cases and while the airline may destroy their bag, they will at least be able to phone and complain?
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones :: I still remember the first time I flew and turned on my fairly inexpensive noise cancelling headphones. The engine noise disappeared, the voices around me became audible and I was far more refreshed as I stopped off the plane. It also made it much easier to sleep. While Bose sets the standard for noise cancelling headphones, you can pick up some Sony noise cancelling headphones for quite a bit less money.
Flat Automatic Umbrella :: As a road warrior, you know that one day they will get stuck out in the rain. By one of those tropical rainstorms that rolled in out of nowhere. They will thank you as they stay dry and warm.
If their computer’s webcam leaves something to be desired, how about getting them one of Microsoft Lifecam HD webcams. This webcam, delivers smooth, detailed 16:9 video in full 720p HD quality. Optimized for Windows Live, the LifeCam Cinema also works with Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and Skype for video calls and messaging. The camera has good low light performance and gives your favorite road warrior a way to chat to their family at the end of a long flight or day on the road. It’s only a couple of years late but it finally give PC users a webcam to rival Apple’s amazing iSight.
I awaited the news about Google Chrome OS today with some interest to see if it was going to provide me with some guidance over whether I should finally give up Windows and move to Chrome OS. The advantages of Chrome can be found in the video below. It’s faster and really optimized for the web which is cool as I spend probably 90% of my time on the web now.
That’s the kicker, I spend probably 90% of my time there but even with my laptop, a netbook, or even my iPod Touch, I spend some pretty critical time offline (click here to see my list of essential Windows applications) and I just can’t myself giving them up, even on a netbook. Giving up Photoshop (or even Gimp), the Flickr Uploadr, AbiWord, Open Office, or even iTunes isn’t high on my list of priorities. Yes I keep a lot of my photos and e-mail in the cloud and we are highly reliant on Google Apps at work, I just can’t imagine giving up desktop apps, even on my iPod Touch for the sake of more speed in bootup. In fact, I wonder if Google OS’s main competition won’t be my desktop or notebook computer but rather the iPhone/iPod Touch from Apple. Around the house we go days without logging into my computer at home because of the easy and convenience of my iPod Touch. I can blog, Twitter, and check e-mail from while while reading the New York Times and the Globe and Mail (btw, the Globe and Mail app is WAY BETTER than the New York Times app). It’s just so much more convenient and so much faster than firing up the old Dell. Yet at the same time, when I need to get some work done offline, I need that too (like when I am at the lake, on a plane, or in a place that doesn’t have wifi – which even in downtown Saskatoon, there are places that aren’t wifi enabled, despite the best efforts of Saskatchewan Connected!). I will pay for Windows or find a Linux version to run. Since we are an iPod family, it will probably be Windows for the foreseeable future.
I made a list of my essential Windows software downloads last year when I bought a new laptop. After five years of continual use, it was time to replace my 900mhz AMD Athlon desktop with something newer and I bought a used Dell from OTV. The list aged pretty well and was a big time saver in getting my computer up and running again. I thought I would post a link to it in case you need to put together a Windows system or are just looking for some freeware to download.
I was reading Thomas Hawk’s excellent post on how the CEO and the marketing chief of Yahoo! doesn’t use Flickr when I clicked on a link to this great e-mail from 2003 by Bill Gates over his frustration in trying to download a piece of Microsoft software.
It goes beyond technology. I keep thinking of this at the shelter. How would I respond to these rules? How would I respond after a night in the dorm? How do I respond to this food? Of course it is even harder if I can’t read or if I struggled with a mental health issue or an addiction. I think I am going to print off the Bill Gates e-mail and put it on my office door. It’s worth remembering.
Steve Balmer sells the virtues of Windows 1.0
Of course here are the advantages to upgrading to Windows 386